Dateline | January 25, 2013
>>> once again, michael george 's guilt or innocence would likely come down to the man who said he made an innocent phone call about a spider-man comic book .
>> we would call mike renaud .
>> they would call mike renaud 's phone call apparently minutes before the murder. the judge, however, had seemed skeptical. but now 12 new people would be deciding the case. so prosecution and defense lawyer his to start up fresh with thea you will-important star witness. the stakes couldn't be higher.
>> michael renaud , without him would you have a case?
>> no. he's the only one that puts the defendant at the scene. he's the only one that alone can destroy the defendant's alibi.
>> without him we with won't even issue a warrant.
>> they knew their client's freedom depended on them challenging renaud 's story and challenging the alibi.
>> it's a win-win for the prosecution's side.
>> what we hoped to direct the jury to focus on was specifically that alibi.
>> the defendant's 1990 story was that he'd left his clinton township shop some time after 4:00 p.m . to go to his mother's house. she lived in hazel park abouta half hour away. it was michael george 's alibi that he was at his mother's house from 4:30 to 7:30.
>> his mother said he took her grandchildren to the park and he was sleeping on the couch some they got back some time after 6:00. barb was murdered a little after 6:00. if michael george 's account is true he was at his mother's at that time and therefore could not be the killer. but according to prosecutors michael george wasn't napping on the couch at all. they contended he'd returned to comic as world and sneaked into the storage room with a gun when barb left to order pizza for his birthday party and about what time was that?
>> between 5:00 and 5:30.
>> that's the timeframe when this woman, a friend of barb's came to the store. it was locked and she had to wait for bar tob return from the pays place.
>> if she was not in the store at 5:30, she couldn't have answered the phone. if someone answered the phone it would have to be someone other than her?
>> prosecutors questioned the one witness who could of a answering the phone.
>> michael renaud .
>> yes, sir.
>> mike renaud . in 1990 a decade before his disabling accident renaud was married and had a young daughter and was holding down two jobs.
>> were you also attending school?
>> yes. i was going to wayne state .
>> how well did you do in wayne state ?
>> i graduated cum laude. the prosecution wanted to regard renaud as knowledgeable and a comic book collector.
>> before july 13, 1990 how frequently would you go to the store?
>> at least once a week.
>> the day of the murder he stopped by comics world before work, but renaud 's critical story with the jury had to do with the phone call he made later in the day to the shop. he had a collector's question about a spider-man comic he owned.
>> he called because he was excited that some book had jumped from $8 to $40.
>> did you contact anyone to discuss the reasons for it going up in value?
>> yeah, i called mike.
>> he knew the voice. he knew the time that he would be there and that's the whole case.
>> tell me about the demeanor of michael george , and the answers were very short and he seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone.
>> you might wonder as many people did if michael george was lying in wait to murder his wife in just moments, why would he be so dumb as to pick up a ringing phone the in the store?
>> he picks it up for one of two reasons, either as a businessman, it's a call and he doesn't want to lose business or number two, it's his accomplice from the outside letting him know what's going on.
>> couldn't investigators simply pull the phone logs and verify renaud 's story by seeing what time the records showed the call coming in. not 22 years ago. the phone company didn't keep those kinds of logs on local calls, but remember, renaud 's story had fallen through the investigative cracks altogether until a cold case cop craig keith came upon it in 2007 and in that re-discovered file was a statement saying that a guy named renaud had called the police department the day after the murder. he wanted the detectives to know that he'd spoken with michael george in the comic shop at 6:00 p.m . on the fateful day. after you hung up with the department, did you think about it further?
>> i did not want to get mike in trouble.
>> and according to those newly discovered police records , renaud had called the police back almost immediately to amend the time he'd spoken to michael george .
>> what did you advise police this time when you called back?
>> it was closer to 5:30 instead of 6:00.
>> there were multiple calls to police . we saw that as a strength rather than a weakness.
>> he's trying to help michael george and he's trying to tell michael george , don't get him in trouble because of me. it's establishing that he's not in this because he has some ill will against the defendant or he's making it up for 15 minutes of fame .
>> that's not how the defense team saw renaud . they thought he was basking in the limelight of the big murder trial.
>> we think he's just exaggerating his own importance in his mind. he saw a way to become important in a homicide investigation.
>> when the defense had its crack at renaud on cross-examination, it wanted the jury to question his motives, memory and credibility.
>> first of all, this guy mike renaud makes himself sound like he's a good buddy of michael george . michael george doesn't remember him at all.
>> renaud 's multiple calls to the police changing his times indicated that this witness didn't have a good handle on his recollections and was therefore, unreliable.
>> he calls back several times being uncertain of the time when he was making the call.
>> if the call to michael george happened at all and the defense disputes that it did, defense attorney marlinga believed it must have been placed before the shop owner left for his mother's house. that was more than an hour before the murder.
>> so you're saying renaud is not just mistaken with his times, that he is --
>> he's a person of mischief.
>> we think he wanted to -- to become a hero.
>> in fact, since the last trial renaud had tried to bolster his story by adding new facts according to the defense . renaud revealed for the first time that he went to the clinton township police department days after the murder to make a report in person. marlinga's tough cross-examination brought out that renaud 's memory of that police interview was at best, hazy.
>> the person that you met with in the face-to-face conversation. do you know the name of that person?
>> i do not.
>> how about the gender? male or female?
>> it was a male.
>> older on young?
>> i cannot say.
>> this was person in a uniform or in a suit, sport coat or a suit?
>> i cannot say.
>> do you remember seeing a badge?
>> i cannot say.
>> did you ever see a police report that was generated as a result of that interview?
>> no, sir.
>> there is, in fact, no police report of that interview. was it another example in the defense 's theme of inept police work or a figment of renaud 's imagination?
>> either the police department lost a very important police report or the lack of police notes is a fact because the interview never happened.
>> isn't it true, sir, that you invented that you made up this conversation?
>> i did not do that.
>> but now the defense was moving on, telling the jury there may be a reason why renaud 's memory is so hazy. back in those days, the lawyers asserted he was often in a haze of pot smoke .
>> can you even remember the times that you were high?
>> objection. argumentative.
>> so the strategy is to go nuclear on mike renaud ?
>> i wouldn't say nuclear. just bring out the packs.
>> in 1990 you used marijuana and you drank alcohol on the weekends, did you not?
>> i was in college and that would not surprise me.
>> the homicide that we're talking about occurred on friday friday july 13th , your two initial calls into the clinton township police occurred on saturday, july 14th of 1990 . we are agreed that friday and saturday are weekend days, correct?
>> when questioned whether he got high on the only weekend that mattered, july 13th and 14th, 1990 , renaud had to admit he just didn't remember.
>> you could have used it, or you could not have used it. you do not remember?
>> the goal was to raise reasonable doubt about renaud 's recall and credibility.
>> marijuana can cause a time distortion so we're talking to a person that does not have the best handle on time.
>> now that the defense believed it had shredded renaud 's story. it was ready to tell the jury who really murdered barbara george .
>> coming up, another possible suspect in an impossibly strange disguise.
>> he said it looked like a woman in a fake beard, a really thin guy.
>> when the comic book murder volume 2 continues.
>>> michael george had been married to his second wife renee